Britain’s Wimbledon title hope Johanna Konta is often parodied for her mantra of “sticking to the process” but, far from being a tennis robot, coach Wim Fissette says when his player goes out on court she can think on her feet.
Sydney-born Konta is four wins away from becoming the first British player to win the Wimbledon women’s title since Virginia Wade in 1977. Just to ramp up the pressure she will also enter the second week wearing the favourites’ tag.
Belgian Fissette, however, says Konta’s ability to play with intuition and not hit the panic button when things go wrong gives her a great chance of winning a first major.
“I give her lots of messages the day before a match and she goes over them with me again before she goes on court, just to make sure it’s all clear,” Fissette, who has worked with Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka, told Reuters. “But I don’t give her too much information. I’ve had players who are extremely rational and open for statistics.
“Johanna goes more on the feeling. I provide tactics and key points about the match but she follows her intuition a lot and plays freely, which is good because it’s only her on court.
“I remember Kim (Clijsters) was very much a player like that. She didn’t do better with more info. Actually the more free she was to make decisions the better she did,” he added of the former world number one and four-time grand slam winner.
Konta has been impressive so far and came through an intense and high-quality battle with Donna Vekic in the second round. Dangerous Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia is the next hurdle in the last 16, a player with a fine grasscourt pedigree, but Fissette believes his opposite number, Garcia’s father and coach Louis, will have a tough time figuring out a way to stop Konta. “I remember when I was with Vika (Azarenka) and she played Johanna in Wuhan and I was trying to analyse Johanna’s game before the match and I found it difficult,” he said.
“She doesn’t really have a weakness and can score from both sides. It was difficult to find a good game plan to beat her.”
Should sixth seed Konta beat Garcia, waiting in the quarter-finals will be either Azarenka or Halep — so inside information will not be in short supply.
“It would be an advantage sure,” said 37-year-old Fissette, who guided Konta to the Miami title this year — her biggest yet. “But to be honest I know when Johanna is playing well she is very tough to beat. “The good thing is she is very clear about what she needs to do on every ball. She trusts herself fully.”
Konta, 26, took the day off on Saturday to get away from the Wimbledon bubble, Fissette said. “That was her idea, not mine,” he said. “She is dealing with the expectation very well. She is taking it all in her stride. She is calm and just focusing on the next day.”
Fissette believes Konta’s serve could be the key to her chances of emulating Wade. She is currently winning 78 % of her first serve points, behind only Americans Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe of the last 16 survivors.
“Her serve is massive weapon,” Fissette said. “You don’t see many girls with a serve like that. For sure it’s in the top three in the servers for women.
“It’s not just her first serve. I think a lot of players would like to have a first serve as good as Johanna’s second serve. She trusts it.” Konta’s rise has given British tennis a two-pronged attack at Wimbledon this year, rather than just relying on Andy Murray, and Fissette says Konta is thriving in the spotlight.
“Garcia will be a tough match, but Johanna can use the energy of the crowd. She has definitely a big chance to win a grand slam.”
Time to take Ostapenko seriously for Wimbledon title: Wilander
Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko is one of the best “finishers” in tennis and should be considered a favourite for the Wimbledon title, according to former world number one Mats Wilander.
The 20-year-old was unseeded when she turned the women’s game upside down with her incredible run to the French Open title — thumping 54 winners and taking the last five games of a rivetting three-set final to stun Romanian Simona Halep.
She has brought her fearless brand of tennis to the Wimbledon lawns and is now in sight of becoming only the third player in the last 21 years to complete the monumental challenge of winning the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back — the others being all-time greats Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.
“You should definitely be talking about it now,” Swede Wilander, working as an analyst for Eurosport, told Reuters. “She is improving with every match.
“At the French she played better the bigger the matches were, the tougher the scoreline was, she seemed to thrive on the pressure. The way she finished the matches at the French Open was unbelievable. She is fearless.”
Ostapenko’s progress has been relatively low-key at Wimbledon, where she is seeded 13th, and she has yet to play on Centre Court or Court One. On Monday the Latvian faces Ukraine’s number four seed Elina Svitolina out on Court 12.
A lack of air time means that talk of a possible French/Wimbledon double, something Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert also achieved, has not really gathered momentum.
“We’re not talking about it because I guess people think ‘Who is going to win the French and Wimbledon in the first year they win a title of any description,” Wilander, who won three French titles but never went beyond the quarter-finals at the All England Club, said.
“The likelihood is very small statistically but you have to consider it now seriously. She knows how to win. I would put her in there as one of the big favourites.
“The way women’s tennis is now most women play like they are waiting for the other girl to run out of bullets. But Ostapenko never seems to be short of firepower.”
The fearless Ostapenko’s must next overcome Svitolina — another big-hitter — for a place in the quarter-finals.
“They’ll be hitting the crap out of the ball,” Wilander said. “They are two of the best young players out there.
“Svitolina moves a little bit better than Ostapenko but Ostapenko goes for it a little earlier in the rallies. The way she plays she can take you out of the equation. I’m not saying Ostapenko will win Wimbledon. But she is no one-slam wonder. She has no fear and will not go away.”
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